Akhil Nagpal, a Delhi-based womenswear designer and the finalist of the prestigious Gen Next award at Lakmé Fashion Week’s 29th edition, is redefining fashion by utilising surplus fishing monofilament yarns and fusing them with upcycled materials.
A graduate in Textile Design from Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, Akhil has had the opportunity to train under some of the best names in the industry including Peter Pilotto in London, Manish Arora, and Amit Aggarwal in Delhi, before launching his own label in 2019. The 28 years old designer always wanted to get into the field of design and put his creative vision out there for the world to see.
“I wanted to start my own label and create beautiful pieces that are also commercially viable, so I ensured I educate myself with all facets of the industry before I ventured into it,” Akhil told AR, adding, “It is one thing to design and create and another thing altogether to run a business. I have been blessed to have had worked with great mentors such as Amit Aggarwal, who involved me not only in design but also in other departments of his company to give me a more holistic experience.”
Dubbed AKHL, the young label prides itself in the way it approaches textiles in fashion. Tapping on the nuances of Indian craftsmanship, the label is reinventing four major techniques, including zardozi embroidery, ari embroidery, ikkat weaving and dyeing, and hand weaving techniques over new-age, innovative materials.
“We are reinventing traditional Indian handcrafting techniques by fusing them with recycled monofilament yarns and then giving it a relief over a lot of our pieces,”Akhil explained adding,“We are essentially modernising these Indian techniques and trying to keep the craft alive for years to come.”
“We are reinventing traditional Indian handcrafting techniques by fusing them with recycled monofilament yarns and then giving it a relief over a lot of our pieces.”
To create one-of-a-kind pieces, AKHL weaves its own fabrics, not only on the loom but also off the loom.“We love shapes and silhouettes, so we play around with them a lot. We are doing several handwoven fabrics as well, but we interlace them in-house,”Akhil said.
For his debut collection at Lakmé Fashion Week, Akhil will tap on the dexterity of silhouettes and forms. The shapes are inspired by dramatic tensile structures, ranging from tensile architecture and art installations to industrial equipment and man-made membranous objects that serve as the visual and technical foundation for the collection.
The label essentially comprises two lines, namely the couture line and the ready-to-wear or prêt-àporter line.
“The entire idea behind the couture line is to be unrestrained in our creativity. It is an effort of putting an unadulterated vision out there of how we see fashion and where we see fashion going,” Akhil elucidated.
“We cannot just serve the domestic market, we need to export and further our economy, and in order to so, we need to contemporise our techniques to cater to the world.”
Priced at Rs. 50,000 and up, the couture line features heavily embellished, embroidered, meticulously crafted and well-tailored garments. It is essentially occasionwear that is very western in its vibe, but with Indian elements that tap on the sensibilities of the domestic market as well. Comprising evening gowns, evening dresses, cocktail dresses, pant suits and separates, this line follows an international format when it comes to its designing.
Priced between Rs. 10,000-30,000, the RTW line is more wearable and more accessible, catering to women of all shapes, sizes and colours. Comprising tops, separate skirts, pants and dresses, this line utilises the label’s forte in technology and shapes and simplifies them to make wearable pieces.
Fabrics and sourcing
The beauty and charm associated with handwoven fabrics is something that the label loves. One can see a lot of handwoven silk and raffia mesh, handwoven cotton, and upcycled yarns being included in its mix. A certain percentage of Lurex is also used to add shine to their debut collection.
The label sources its fabric both from outside as well as in-house. Given the variety of materials available in Delhi as a hub, Akhil places the city as his go-to destination for sourcing requirements.
But for the upcycled materials, he taps various fishing villages in Mumbai, which have tangled and unusable monofilament yarns in surplus. The label takes these tangled bunches, cuts them up, spectrum dyes them and then repurposes them as embroidered yarns.
“We are constantly on the lookout for innovative ways to create our own and exclusive fabric. In zardozi, for example, the needle goes all around the fabric and covers the fabric, but we only see it being done in dabka, or zari or golden yarns, etc. Keeping this in mind, we wanted to take up a completely new approach, so we took these upcycled monofilament yarns, which is a plastic industry by-product, but we are upcycling it. We further dye it and then we embroider the surfaces using the same,”Akhil said.
AKHL also uses textiles created using industrial glass yarns, rayon and silk; cutting-edge fabrics such as latex and metallic foils to emphasise on the patterns of the textiles and silhouettes.
“The first part of engagement for our brand is our aesthetics. As a label, we do not claim to be 100 per cent sustainable but we do try to be environmentally conscious. We try and incorporate upcycled materials wherever we can, however they fit into the aesthetics,” Akhil asserted.
“We are a young brand and we are trying to be environmentally conscious. Sustainability is not our selling point and it shouldn’t be to falsely lead your consumer. We respect craft and handwork. If designers have a respect for craft and have the ability to take on more stakeholders, then automatically business would become more sustainable.”
Akhil is scheduled to showcase his debut collection at the country’s most coveted talent discovery programme – Lakmé Fashion Week’s Gen Next, during the upcoming Summer/Resort ’20 edition taking place on 12-16 February 2020, in Mumbai.
Selected from among a pool of over 300 applicants from across the country, Akhil is one of the four winners to have been hand-picked by an esteemed jury that comprised of industry front runners such as Amit Aggarwal, Tina Tahiliani and Gen Next mentor Sabina Chopra among other industry experts.
Since its inception, the Gen Next mentorship programme has been celebrated for identifying new talent, and providing young designers with a nurturing platform. To its credit, the platform has introduced talents such as Kallol Dutta, Rahul Mishra, Ruchika Sachdeva, Nachiket Barve, Masaba Gupta among others.